Diet and dietary selectivity of the platypus in relation to season, sex and macroinvertebrate assemblages


  • Editor: Günther Zupanc

T. A. McLachlan-Troup, Institute of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, A08, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia. Tel: +6 12 9351 2318; Fax: +6 12 9351 4119


The diet of the platypus Ornithorhynchus anatinus was studied by examination of material collected from the cheek pouches of animals captured while foraging in streams in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, Australia. Platypuses consumed benthic invertebrates from 55 families in 16 orders, with virtually no prey being derived from the terrestrial environment. We also sampled invertebrates in pool, riffle and stream edge habitats to identify where prey were obtained. Invertebrates in the diet were most similar to those collected along stream edges and in pools compared with the faster-flowing riffles, suggesting that platypuses focused their foraging activities largely in these deeper water habitats. Although there was no seasonality in the assemblage structure of macroinvertebrates, the diet of platypuses varied between seasons, notably between winter and summer, suggesting that some dietary selectivity is seasonal. Dietary differences between the sexes were not detected. Overall, our results suggest that some dietary selection occurs in the platypus with respect to both foraging habitat and season. Seasonal selectivity may reflect different metabolic demands on platypuses at different times of the year. In contrast, habitat selectivity may reflect difficulty of prey access and risk of prey escape in fast-flowing riffles, higher energy costs and risk of predation associated with exploiting this habitat, and prey avoidance responses that are more rapid in the shallow riffles than in the deeper water pools and stream edges. These alternatives await evaluation by future research.